Over the course of its history, New Haven has undergone enormous changes. It began as an agrarian economy, but due to a great natural harbor, it transformed into a manufacturing mercantile economy by the 19
century. Due to technological advances such as electricity, and the combustion engine, New Haven became a booming industrial economy by 1850. Elm city is not the boom town it once was, but the industrial base is still present, along with a large service economy base.
The expanding economy of New Haven during the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s attracted a diversity of people to the city. Some were New England farmers, looking for a better life in the city. Many Europeans from Irish and German descent also came to New Haven through New York and Boston in this same time period. Due to this migration and immigration, the population jumped from 10,678 in 1830 to 40,000 in 1855. These newcomers helped build the shops, factories and transportation links so vital to the city’s success.
Although the white newcomers of this and later time periods faced much prejudice and discrimination, their lot was much better than the Black Americans of New Haven. The city’s black community, largely descended from slaves brought the New Haven during the colonial era. The lives of most blacks were defined by menial work, segregated housing, poor education and color.
In the 20
century, large numbers of peoples, from mixed back grounds were absorbed into the city. Blacks began migrating in ever increasing numbers from the nation’s south, as Hispanics have been migrating in recent years from Puerto Rico and Central America. During the time period, Italians have become the largest ethnic group in the city, and the greater New Haven area. There have also been considerable numbers of Chinese, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Irish and Greeks who have contributed to the area’s development.
During and after the Civil War, New Haven’s harbor, industry, and population grew enormously. This must be taught using maps and illustrations depicting the growth of New Haven and Yale University. There must also be mention of famous New Haven people such as John Goodyear, Eli Whitney, Walter Camp and so on.
This era in New Haven could also look at the women’s suffrage movement and the role of women in the history of New Haven. It is essential we teach our young female and male students about people such as Susan B. Anthony and Sarah Kemble Knight, who organized marches in New Haven for women’s right to vote in the late 19
and early 20
New Haven reached its greatest population in 1950 at 164,443 residents. By 1980, the population dropped 30 thousand residents to only 125,787. Many of the people to leave New Haven were upper income residents, and this hurt the city financially. At the same time, many of these people moved to New Haven’s suburban communities, which doubled in combined population in the same time period. It use to be
to own your own home, but for many Elm City residents, the dream is to leave New Haven for one of its suburban communities. New Haven has also changed in its racial demographics. As the Euro-American families leave, they are replaced by the expanding Black and Hispanic communities.
Between 1960 and the present, New Haven has declined population and economy. The reasons for this decline may be due to an increase in crime. This has some of the more prosperous residents to leave, and many suburban residents no longer shop in the city. Just a few decades ago, the people of greater New Haven shopped at the
five and dime
stores downtown on a regular basis. New Haven was home to Macy’s and Mally’s which left the city in the mid 1980s. At the same time, large suburban shopping malls have opened, and retail outlets such as Walmart have taken the business of small shops in the downtown area. Many industries such as United States Steel have left the city, finding cheaper labor overseas. All the above are factors attributing to the city’s recent decline.
Although New Haven has declined, the future looks very bright for the Elm City. Due to economic incentives such as state tax breaks, industry is coming back to the city. The city has attracted a new steel plant into the city. This plant will employ thousands of New Haven residents. Construction will begin before the year 2000. The city has attracted New England Development to build a 1-million-square foot mall on Long Wharf. This should bring shoppers back to the Elm City, not to mention the employment opportunities created by the mall and its construction. The state has also agreed to widen interstate 95 and the Quinnipiac River (Pearl Harbor Memorial) bridge. This will ease traffic and make travel to New Haven a more enticing place to shop, work and live.
The city government of New Haven is run by Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and a board of 30 alderman. The alderman represent the following city neighborhoods: Westville, West Hills, Dwight Street, the Hill, Fair Haven, the Annex, Morris Cove, Newhallville, East Rock and Downtown. New Haven has 8 public high schools, 7 middle schools, and 27 elementary schools. The school system is run by Superintendent Dr. Reginald Mayo, and an eight member board of education. The total city budget in 1996 was over 308 million dollars, most of that money going to education 125 million, and public safety 50 million.